N.C. House and Senate committees officially adopted criteria for drawing legislative and congressional districts for the next decade. The committees voted during a joint meeting Thursday, August 12.
The criteria forbid the use of partisan or election-results data to draw new district boundaries. That’s a departure from previous redistricting under both Democrats and Republicans, in which partisan data played a key role.
“North Carolina has been the epicenter of redistricting lawsuits for decades,” said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, who co-chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee, in a statement. “It’s time to put the last 30 years of litigation behind us and begin a new era of nonpartisan map drawing.”
As reported by Carolina Journal earlier this week, the 10 criteria ensure each congressional district has a roughly equal population, based on the results of the 2020 decennial census. They also stipulate that legislative and congressional districts must be contiguous and as compact as possible.
Other elements of the criteria that have drawn fire from Democrats include a ban on using racial or partisan composition data in drawing district lines, plus an allowance for using incumbent locations in setting the boundaries.
Thursday, Democrats on the committee tried to shoot down these criteria by putting forward a series of amendments, each of which was rejected in a voice vote. Democrats also tried to amend the list of criteria to ensure the preservation of “communities of interest,” which are groupings of voters by shared beliefs, race, or other attributes.
One successful amendment will add a sentence emphasizing that final maps will comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released numbers showing that 78% of North Carolina’s population growth in the past decade occurred in the six-county region of the Triangle or the six-county region of Charlotte. Census data released earlier this year shows the Tar Heel State’s population jumped by 903,905 residents since 2010.
Earlier this week, the joint redistricting committee heard from members of the public — mostly left-wing activists — on the proposed criteria. Even that meeting was not without controversy, as the state director of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee tweeted an accusation that Republicans harbored a secret sign-up sheet for the public hearing to stack it with friendly voices, according to a media statement from the office of Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.
But the vast majority of speakers at the event were affiliated with left-wing advocacy organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Carolina Jews for Justice, Common Cause N.C., and Action N.C.
The second person to speak at that hearing, Bob Phillips of Common Cause, represents a group that has sued Republican lawmakers in the past over election maps. Even the person who made the accusation of the “secret sign-up sheet” was the fifth person to speak during the hearing.